Monday, February 28, 2005

Back !

I am back after a gap of 4 days - 4 days of a complete break from cricket - no blogs, no visits to Cricinfo, no thinking about strategies and team compositions. I was not away on a holiday nor was I studying for an exam or extraordinarily busy with work. I was not moving to a new house and was not weary of cricket either.

So why the break ? While in the shower 5 days ago, I was reflecting on what I usually spend my time doing - I figured I spend a fair amount of time reflecting on the game - besides the half an hour I spend blogging everyday and another half surfing the web for news. This here in the United States Of Ignorant Cricketless America not back home where I spend a good deal of time watching matches of varying interests and intensity as well.

And so I thought - what if I decide to take a complete break from cricket for some time ?? I remember during school and college years my parents used to advice me to keep my cricket craze in perspective lest it should hamper my academics. Well I very rarely did it back then. Now however since I felt the need and the urge from within I decided to give it a shot. What would I do with all the time that I did not spend on cricket ? Would I utilize it in some productive work ? Would I waste it away ? Would I discover some new interest or try out some other activity I had never done before ??

I decided to carry out this experiment for 4 days. I noted 3 primary reasons for this exercise:
1. To test my ability to control and conquer myself
2. To be ready for the big India-Pakistan series refreshed
3. To simply carry out and analyse a personal experiment

It was not as hard as I thought it would be. Never did I feel an irresistible temptation to go to good old Cricinfo to check out the latest news - maybe helped by the fact that there were some pretty uninteresting matches going on all around the World. Of course I did read the headlines on Times Of India - I was not going to go out of my way to keep these out - and at times I did drift into thinking about them - the selection of Yuvraj over Kaif in the Indian Test Team being the main tempter. But soon enough I was able to realise it and shut out my thoughts. Also the stray thought of whether Rahul Dravid will scale the heights he did last season did try to enter the mind while walking through the snow but these were similarly dispelled. I accidentally did once land up onto Will's Corridor Of Uncertainty (a very good cricket blog I read regularly) out of habit but moved away within a second as I remembered my resolve.

So I did to a great degree succeed in what I set out to do. So what did I do with the time I saved ? Nothing much !!! I spent a lot more time than I do following tennis - I saw the Dubai Open - a superb match between Federer and Agassi - and little more of work. Although I do not think my net productivity was very greatly increased. So in that respect it didn't really help. Although I realised I can in fact survive without cricket and can indeed think and talk about other topics - something which several people doubted (me included).

Overall I would say yes I can very well survive and conquer myself and that makes me feel good. But I don't think there is too much that I am gaining by it. So I would end by quoting 2 lines from a very famous Hindi song:

"Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikava To Nahin
Tere Bina Zindagi Bhi Lekin Zindagi Nahin"

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Pathetic !!

I had high hopes from the young Bangladesh side in the Duleep Trophy but it seems they were completely overawed by the situation and have received a comprehensive mauling at the hands of East Zone which can be safely described as a weak team compared to the others in the tournament. Patience is the keyword I guess - Bangladesh will continue to have days like these for some time at least.

Plus point coming from the match - Ganguly scored 170 - great !! On a day when Dravid scored 6 runs in 2 innings, Laxman 14 in 2 (or something like that) and Tendulkar 4 in 1 the skipper's good form is indeed a respite.

The South vs West match might turn out to be a cracker (indeed it is) what with Kumble and Powar completely destroying Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman !!! Bowlers rule in this year's Duleep Trophy and that is great news !!

Amidst the slaughter, the good contributions of talented youngster Venugopal Rao need special mention and praise. I don't think it will be long before he makes his way into Team India.

#2 ?!?! What The Hell ?!?!

I have been mentioning in some of my previous posts that New Zealand would have a fair shot at upsetting Australia. Unfortunately I must admit that they have proven me wrong. After the capitulation the other day one needs to again wonder at the direction in which the ODI game is going. By the ICC ratings for which I have a lot of respect, this is the #2 Team in the World and if that is going to be the gulf between the top 2 Teams the situation must be considered seriously. For the life of me, I cannot imagine England, South Africa, Pakistan, India, West Indies doing any better either. Only Sri Lanka under a set of severe constraints (top among which would be a slow low Premadasa wicket) might put up a slightly better show.

NZ need to sort out their own problems. They have no batsman to play the #3 role - I asked yesterday why Fleming who should be able to do it is not. The Sinclairs and the Papps for all their worth are not going to be daunting #3s at international level. The bowling is in shambles - Tuffey at his best can be described as a gentle giant who might throw in an odd winning performance here and there. He is out of form. They have oscillated between Styris, WIlson and now Adams and yet none of these really should fill anyone'e heart with terror. Mills has been so-so. They are desperately in need of Oram and preferrably Bond to recover from injuries. Until then it is upto the old warhorses Vettori and Cairns to lend some respectability to the "attack".

Finally, I did not comment on this before, but I simply loved Stephen Fleming's ban on using the A-word. That is the right attitude to have - but needs to be matched with performances. If they keep up that attitude and raise their game several notches NZ may still stand an outside chance.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

That Sixing Sevening Monkey Fiver Who Should Threeing Three Himself

The title character as can be seen in the picture is going to threeing officiate in the upcoming India Pakistan series.

This could well threeing mean that the series could turn into a fouring lottery what with a twoing, sixing madman in charge. Everyone knows what a fivey fourious umpire he is and a fiving sevening threer of a man. He played a threeing huge role in denying India a series victory over Australia last year.

He has also on several occasions deliberately twoed the Indian players - first Ganguly - (who gave him a oneing threeing zero thank you very much) and then he had the fouring audacity to threeingly and twoingly insult and humiliate an absolute gentleman like Rahul Dravid in the VB Series.

Pakistan aren't too amused about his twoing fiving ways either - so it may well turn out to be a lottery of a match whenever he is in charge. And now the ICC is going to fouringly celebrate the fivey fact that this Monkey-fiver is completing his sixing 100 Test Matches !! (Five the foury six of him !! For sixing God's sake)
And that too the hallowed turf of Eden Gardens will be fiving desecrated by his foury oney sixy self. Really sixing sad. I hope that the oner, sixer, fiver, threer, fourer, twoer, sevener decides to sevening call it a sixing day after this. World Cricket is better off without fiving sevening sixers of umpires like him.

What Rubbish !!!

The whole idea of the TV Rights issue threatening the future of a cricket series is utter rubbish and completely abominable. And I mean any damn series leave alone a big one like India v Pakistan. I guess I was just keeping quiet about the whole thing hoping that common sense would prevail and a solution be found. But this statement by the BCCI President is a load of crap.

OK. I need to find answers to a few questions. Why this whole mess ? Why can't the BCCI give it to Zee if it is the highest bidder ? Because it has no prior experience ? OK .. if that is the case why can't it give it to ESPN-STAR ? Because clearly I think they have stated that monetary value of the bid would not be the sole criterion ?? Why can it not let Zee go to hell in that scenario ?

OK. I realise that the above questions are a bit naive but they were necessary to get the basics right. Now, the situation as I understand is that the BCCI had in fact decided to give the rights to ESPN-STAR but Zee who had the highest bid went to court. Now once it enters the courts in India, it can be a real mess. (Don't get me wrong - I have great respect for the judiciary of India and their judgements) The problem is the delay, isn't it ?? A temporary solution was found for the Australia series but clearly that resulted in great losses for the BCCI.

I think with the delicate political angle to the series, the Government could persuade the courts towards a speedy resolution one way or the other without a compromise as happened last time. Until such time, our respected Board President better keep his mouth shut and start selecting his X1 for the warm-up match in Dharamshala.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bring Back Dizzy !!!

Australia might have won the first match courtesy a poor show by New Zealand, a great spell by McGrath and gratuitous umpiring by Billy Bowden but they look far from the champion side they are. This is the third match in a row now that they have failed to reach 250 and third time running against NZ that they have suffered a middle-order collapse. The young hopes, Clarke and Katich somehow seem unable to turn on the magic against the Trans-Tasman rivals and Kaspro is also having an ordinary time against them (while otherwise he has been brilliant) Hence I would bring back Dizzy immediately in the team.

I think the moment has to come sooner than later that Australia's luck and the benefit they derieve from being able to intimidate opponents pschycologically will run out. They have come close several times this season - both Pak and NZ have threatened to beat Aus - and I wonder if the turning point is around the corner.

Good Work

For a change Pakistan selectors have done a really good rational job. This Pakistan team is probably the best available. Of course the withdrawal of Shoaib Akhtar was a great boost to Pakistan. I have a worrying feeling that people like Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed and Asim Kamal might just prove to be a pain for India. Hoping of course that that is not the case. Of course we cannot afford to ignore the mercurial match-winner Shahid Afridi

Put Him Up There !!!

I read an article recently in The New Zealand Herald which says that Fleming is keen on Brendon McCullum opening the innings in the ODIs in the forseeable future. He goes on to say that that might not happen just yet - while Astle and himself are still going strong. My advice - put him up there immediately. New Zealand need a dasher up the order. Also Fleming and Astle are 2 of New Zealand's best ever batsmen in ODIs. It works at times (like with the Ganguly-Tendulkar duo for a long time) but not always - the 2 best players opening the innings. I think NZ would be better served if Fleming plays the crucial #3 role. That way the NZ lineup looks more middle-heavy. In fact I'd make the change as early as the next match.

Btw, Scott Styris' abscence is gonna be a big blow !!!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

‘If not Azhar, Sachin would be great’

Mohammad Ashraful's BCB side are arriving in India for the Duleep Trophy. I quote this from Cricket

"Ask him to pick one Indian batsman he has not met and would love to. Ashraful’s quick answer is: Mohammed Azharuddin. ‘‘He played some wonderful innings and I have heard a lot about him. I know it will be difficult but I will try and meet him during the Duleep Trophy,’’ he said. But if that doesn’t materialise, Asharful would compensate it by meeing Sachin Tendulkar. The young batsman’s turnaround in the December 2004 India series is credited with the famous Tendulkar-Ashraful chat in Dhaka. ‘‘Who would not want to meet him, he is an institution. Not just me, the whole team will learn something from him,’’ said Ashraful."

Click here for a link to the complete article.


Glenn McGrath's performances in recent times have been frightening to say the least. After a 5-wkt haul to finish off Pakistan in the VB Series Finals, he has come up with astonishing figures of 4/16 of 9 overs against NZ in a match in which the average runrate was about 3 times his economy rate. Added to his metronomic accuracy, is his slightly increased pace which makes him a truly daunting proposition. And to think that we all thought he would never return to his best after his injury in 2003. Great comeback Pigeon - Sachin take a lesson - don't try to rush you comeback for God's sake.

And on a happy sidenote, an extremely exciting ODI - maybe there might be a renaissance of some sorts in ODI cricket waiting to happen. Again as I have theorized many times the best matches are the ones where teams score 230s and 240s not 320s and 330s.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Wake Up India !!

I'm surprised that with the series only a fortnight away now, there is still no sense of excitement or anticipation anywhere. If India vs Pakistan does not spring people to life, it is really a very sorry state of affairs. The BBC has already started a countdown to the Ashes which is like 5 months away. Come On India - get cracking. We are the most cricket-crazy nation in the World and we need to demonstrate it - not only by top-class performances on the field but intense passion off it. I would like to ask my friends in India have the Harshas and Shastris got going with their specials on ESPN yet ?? Yeah, I know the television rights dispute is still to be sorted out but they should get going with their previews nevetherless. Have the new ads made by LG and others specifically for this series begun hammering themselves upon you ?? Has every other person you meet in office, in school, in college, in the park, at the gym been bitten by the bug and talking about what would be India's best new ball pair and who would be the danger man from Pakistan ?? Or are they still revelling in the grand successes of Sania and Narain to give a thought to this series ??

Well, the BCCI (often lambasted unfairly) has really done a pathetic job this time. I wonder why this new trend of delaying all matters to the eleventh hour has started - not only have the venues not been finalised; they haven't announced the date for the team declaration, they haven't even announced the team for the side game. Of course, the whole mess about the TV rights continues - but one would have thought at least they would get these other issues in order. The players are also surprisingly restrained about the whole thing on either side - no grand proclamations from Ganguly - or no hollow threats from Shaoib Akhtar - no everyday update and gossip about Sachin's fitness ... COME ON ... HAS EVERYONE FALLEN ASLEEP ??

Finally I hope that India will be just as gracious and hospitable to Pakistan off the field as they were last year though very different on it. Here is an article on Cricinfo on this issue. I find it pretty interesting - particularly the part where he explains how the grand welcome the Indians received from the common Pakistani was a sudden unexpected and unplanned outpour of emotion. He goes on to say that this phenomenon can be explained scientifically - in fact it has been in the book The Tipping Point where a series of small uncoordinated events culminates in a widespread outpouring - very interesting I must read this once !!! What we would like is a repeat of Delhi 1999 or even Chennai 1999 but certainly not Kolkata 1999.

Revised Teams

Here are my revised teams to play Australia in the Super Series:

Lara (capt)

Fleming (capt)

A New Start ...

Today marks the beginning of a new era with the first international 20-20 Game between Australia and New Zealand. Some have hailed it as the saviour of ODI cricket; others have lashed it - I think it's kind of fun though just that and nothing serious. Let's wait and see how it goes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

OH NO !!!

My dislike for Ashish Nehra is well-known. Once again, just when I had happily written him off for the Test series against Pakistan, he has come up with a 6-wkt haul in the Duleep Trophy !!! Please !! It has happened so many times in the past he has come up with a good performance just to follow it up with 10 terrible ones. I suppose the selectors will have to consider him again after this now - real pity !!

I also do not think too highly about Shib Shankar Paul - and guess what, he has come up with a 6-wkt haul as well !!! God help me !! Well, I think with Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan (subject to fitness) sure to pick up the first 2 seamers' spots, Nehra, Paul and Balaji would fight for 2 places - I think the selectors will go with Nehra in the end - as Balaji is also coming back after an injury and it would be too risky to go with 2 bowlers coming back after an injury !!!

If you want more details of why I hate Ashish Nehra and the list of his poor performances, ask me. I could write a new post on that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Interesting ...

I read this quote by Andrew Miller on Wisden Cricinfo and it appealed to me immediately - "With Pietersen England stand a chance; but without Flintoff they do not stand a hope"

Here is an article in support of this idea appearing in The Times.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

He Has A Point You Know !!!

Here is what Bob Woolmer has to say about the whole controversy regarding his comments about the umpiring in the VB Series. I think he has a fair point. It is indeed true that better teams and home teams do get the rub of the green on most occasions when it comes to close decisions.

Just to recollect a few horrendous decisions in recent times:
1) The way Steve Bucknor helped Australia save the Sydney Test in January 2004
2) The way David Shepherd gave a palpably plump Ricky Ponting not out in Adelaide on 0 when he went on to score a 240
3) The way Ganguly stood in total disbelief after David Orchard gave him out lbw although he was about half a kilometre down the wicket
And this is not just cribbing about poor decisions against India so:
4) The way Marcus Trescothick was given out at Kolkata in January 2002 when the ball had clearly pitched outside leg.
5) Even the best make mistakes - The way Venkat gave Mark Waugh out caught bat pad in the Chennai Test of 1998.
6) Also the dodgy decision by Javed Akhtar to give Graham Thorpe out lbw to put England out of the 1999 WC and India into the Super Six

Point is - it is not home country umpires that are the problem - let us assume all umpires are neutral - it is the poor quality of umpiring that is the problem. Let us face it - today there exist only 2 good umpires in the World - Simon Taufel and Rudi Koertzen - the rest are in varying degrees poor - now that Venkat has retired and Bucknor and Shepherd have gone from being pretty good to pathetic.

I would not concur with Woolmer entirely. In particular, I do not support his idea that the third umpire with technology at hand should have power to overrule umpires. What I think can be done to improve the umpiring, is utilize this technology to evaluate the performance of the umpires in an objective, unbiased and transparent manner. Currently, the captains rate the umpires on a scale of 1 to 10 (I think). This information is considered top secret for reasons unknown - although it not always remains so - remember Ganguly giving umpire Bucknow a 0 last year ?? Well, anyway insted of having this secretive and subjective assessment, why not have an open and objective one ?? Why not have a review at the end of every series which says that umpire A had to adjudicate on say 50 decisions and got 35 right, 12 wrong and 3 uncertain - or something like that. For certain decisions which are not conclusive even after the technology, the umpires could be given the benefit of the doubt or a probability value of the decision being correct could be associated with it.

Based on the performance of the umpires, the ICC can decide whether to continue with them or opt for new ones. Of course, those who have been dropped would be eligible for consideration in the future again by good performances at the first-class level and so on. A selection commitee could be appointed to make these decisions. So that they will use the stats so obtained as a guide in making their decisions. Just as players figures in first class cricket or their performances are a guide to selection in the national team, so will be the situation with umpires. Of course then if a very senior umpire has a really bad series he could still hold on to his place based on his reputation since there is a human element involved. However 3 or 4 bad series in a row will not be tolerated. The key idea here is make the numbers public; make that objective and then let the selectors follow a subjective procedure.

Of course something similar could already be in place (the way Asoka Desilva was shown the door after a series of poor performances is indeed heartening) - the main complaint would still be the lack of transparency in decision-making. We all know Steve Bucknor had a poor series Down Under last year - why not the ICC publish their figures and assessment to the public to check if they are on the same wavelength with their patrons ??

If anyone having anything to do with the bosses at the ICC are reading this, I would request them to please consider this suggestion seriously.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

"Murali No Chucker"

It's Shane Warne who's saying it - so the words should count for something. Mr. Bedi we are looking forward to more entertainment from your mouth !!!

What A Shame !

Bad weather disrupted what looked to be a real nailbiter at Durban. England had done extremely well to restrict South Africa to 211 but were reeling themselves at 7/2. Could have gone any way this match. But the rain handed the series over to the hosts. I'm sure the Proteas would have loved it if they had the chance to win the series without heavenly intervention. Be as it may it is a good consolation prize after the Test series reverse and could just be the tonic they need to get out of the rut.

Friday, February 11, 2005

3 In A Row ...

Dravid and Kaif have combined for the third match in a row to take India A home and to the Challenger Trophy glory. Hope the Super Duo keeps their good form going and take us to victory in the matches against Pakistan.

The series ends with finally the bowlers playing some kind of role in the game. Zaheer impressive; the new guy Rudra Pratap - also a left-armer - good; gosh why are all up-and-coming Indian seamers left arm ??

New Balls (Bowlers) Please

Clealry the English management does not agree with my views. In an earlier post I had said that Andersen and Wharf need to play in the last few ODIs for England. Well they stuck with Hoggy and Ali and the result another loss - built once again on a largely lacklustre bowling performance.

Let me make one thing clear. I am not for a moment implying that Wharf and Andersen are champion bowlers. They are definitely not as good as Hoggard so far in their careers. However the important point is Hoggard is justifiably tired after playing a major role in a gruelling Test Series. Very understandably the body and mind will be just a little bit less than 100% after such an ordeal in the relatively less important ODI series. Clearly one of the major reasons for South Africa's success is that they lost the Test Series and hence are desperate to salvage some pride and prove a point. Clearly the English do not feel that urgency. Little surprise that the 2 star turns for England have been those that did not play in the Tests (Gough and Pietersen).

In such circumstances clearly the fresh faces of Andersen and Wharf need to be played simply because they would be the most eager to prove a point. As I said it is about bringing new new ball bowlers. (not necessarily more accomplished ones).

Lehmann Over ??

The inevitable has happened - Darren Lehmann - the jolly old fellow has been axed. It was going to happen sooner or later although I thought he might be given one more chance. Anyway Michael Bevan has not made a comeback despite an excellent domestic season which probably means the doors are shut on him tight. Let's see what Hussey comes up with.

Here is a really nice article on The Australian.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Justin Kemp

In all the tributes I paid to Pietersen's innings, I kind of forgot to mention a fabulous knock of 80 in just 50 balls by Justin Kemp - with 7 sixes. This was also a very crucial innings coming at a time when it looked like England might restrict South Africa. In the end each of those sixes was worth its weight in gold as the victory margin suggests. People have already started calling him the next Lance Klusener though I tend to disagree - I'd rather wait - he has played only a couple of decent innings so far !!!

Also don't forget - another 100 by Graeme Smith - weren't people saying he is an overrated batsman ???

Dravid at it again

Rahul Dravid has once again played an absolute gem of an innings - scoring 115 in 96 balls. In the process he held a customary magical partnership with Mohammad Kaif. For India B Utthapa's innings was praiseworthy.

As was feared all along, this Challenger Trophy has been a showcase for batsmen - with bowlers playing as little part in the game as Kajol in Kal Ho Naa Ho - for the love of God why is Harbhajan Singh not playing ???

I think the one needs to seriously analyse whether it is indeed worth holding this event annually.

Miss You Freddie !! - Or Do We ??

England who looked a clearly if not overwhelmingly better team than South Africa in the Test Series are struggling in the ODIs. Although ODIs are always a bit of a lottery and resultantly less important, there can be some clear reasons found for this change.

The first one almost stares you in the face - Andrew Flintoff - or rather the lack of him. True he did not set the World alight with the bat in the Test series, but his bowling at crucial times was invaluable. If not a couple of key wickets there was always guaranteed a tight spell to pile on the pressure. That is exactly what England have missed him in the ODIs. In the second at Bloomfontein, the way South Africa choked received worldwide attention - what was forgotten was that at 1 point England had a fair chance to win comfortably but did not have the bowling to blow out the middle-order. That came back to haunt them again in the 3rd ODI and at Cape Town the "attack" was positively shred to pieces as it was today at East London. Truly, Flintoff was missed with the ball.

But was he missed with the bat ?? Maybe not. The kind of innings Kevin Pietersen played today would have been difficult to better even for Freddie. Before this match I thought he was fairly talented but perhaps got just a bit too lucky at the start of his career. Also, the likes of Atherton kept stressing about certain technical deficiencies - well to hell with technical faults if you are capable of playing an innings like that !!! Under intense pressure chasing a target of 300 and coming in with the team in dire straits it was simply great !! And deserved to be on the winning side.

When Freddie does come back, the idea of the pair going at the bowlers together promises to be a mouth-watering prospect.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Ahmedabad Issue (Part 2)

It would be optimistic even childish to expect Pakistan to agree to play in Ahmedabad, more so without making a fuss of it. Clearly, the political reasons exist and there is definitely some degree of truth in security fears as well - but most important is the fact that we did not play a Test Match at Karachi last year. Clearly, we faced a similar situation for all that my friends would argue of Ahmedabad being safer than Karachi - in the eyes of the Pakistanis it will definitely not be. Hypothetically, if it was, I think they are still justified in following a tit-for-tat policy. They have already suggested playing an ODI in Mumbai - yes, we did play one in Karachi - what is it if not tft ??

I think I am with the PCB on this one - yes, Chennai would be a much better option - for me - the best part is Chennai is 100 times more likely to give a result than Ahmedabad !!!

Narhari Amin - stop crying.

Finally ...

MS Dhoni has done something to justify the hype surrounding him. After a rather poor series in Bangladesh, he scored a destructive 100 yesterday against India B to take the Senior Team home. Some of his shots were quite awesome as this report indicates - well, if he does turn out to be even half of what Gilchrist is (let me correct myself - 1/4 th of what Gilchrist is it would be great for India). I think he has done enough to continue his selection in the ODI side although I'd stick with Karthik for the Tests for right now.

Shikhar Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu - very good - it seems Indian batting is in safe hands for a few more years to come when the Fab 4 eventually hang up their boots - keep those scores coming guys !! And some day you will constitute the formidable lineup that India boasts. Also great to see Laxman strike some form - he needs to find his touch quickly after a poor year in Tests.

It is painful to see the bowling in such poor shape. Is Harbhajan playing in this series ?? I didn't notice his name anywhere in the scorecards - maybe I missed it - anyway Pathan's injury is a cause for concern. We have got to have Zaheer and Pathan fit and firing against Pakistan !!!

England face a crucial test against South Africa at Durban - if they lose this match, not only will it be thier 3rd consecutive loss but it will also mean they cannot win this series from here on. I urge Michael Vaughan and his men to lift their game again as they did so often in the Test series when in mattered (although ODIs are not that important anyway)

A Symbiosis ??

Mohammad Ashraful will lead Bangladesh in the Duleep Trophy. This should be a great experience for the young Bangla side who are on the up. This has been one of the better decisions made by the BCCI - to invite international A teams to participate in the Duleep Trophy. (although the purists might have some valid objections to it).

Last year England A added great value to the tournament while also deriving several benefits. They produced some tough cricket before they bowed out to South Zone courtesy a mammoth run-chase and an innings from young Y Venugopal Rao that helped him make his mark. Rngland also benefitted - Pietersen developed in leaps and bounds as a player and Simon Jones got just the tonic needed to recover from injury.

I hope Ashraful and his team reap benefits from this and in the process play some attractive cricket.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Ahmedabad Issue

The issue over the suitability of Ahmedabad as a venue for the Test series against Pakistan looks like being a controversial one. I have several thoughts on this but due to lack of time I will put them in a later post - just 1 quick point - from a purely cricketing point of view the Ahmedabad wicket sucks, so I would be happy if it is moved to Chennai

Yuvraj shines but Dravid takes India A home

Yuvraj Singh scored a magnificent century to reassert his form - but in the end the ever-reliable pair of Dravid and Kaif took India A home. The youngsters Venugopal Rao and Shikhar Dhawan did well too but there is as of now no place in the Test side for them.

Yuvraj has once again proved that he should remain the next-in-line in case any one is injured - which means if Tendulkar is unfit Yuvraj should find a place in the Test squad.

Zaheer Khan's performance should be extremely encouraging and Sourav Ganguly's pretty depressing.

My Mistake

In an earlier post I had talked about how the Australian Cricketer Awards have so much credibility and authenticity attached to them unlike those in India - well, maybe I was wrong. This article in The Age points out several defects in the award system - not least of which is the bias towards batsmen.

Another case in point where go all out to praise others while belittling our own like fools.

A Comeback for James Anderson ??

With Steve Harmisson going public about his lack of interest in being in South Africa and his figures in the last match backing his words, England face a serious selection problem before the fifth ODI. Matthew Hoggard is understandably exhausted after a gruelling Test series and his performances also proved that in the last game he played.

So England might need to go back to the enigmatic, mercurial, talented but out-of-form James Anderson and hope he finds form in comditions similar to where he bowled so devastatingly in the World Cup almost 2 years ago. Although I suppose Alex Wharf is also an option - why didn't he start in any of the matches so far ??

I always thought it was not a smart move to send Simon Jones home - his type of bowling could have been useful here particularly given that Harmisson was never likely to be a big threat this series.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Corridor Of McGrath

I find this piece on Cricinfo terrific (and a little terrifying too). It describes how 2 deliveries bowled by Glenn McGrath pitched within a few mm. of each other, moved just a wee bit and induced 2 edges. Such accuracy is indeed frightening and more intimidating than marathon-length run-ups and speed-of-light bowling. Less than a year ago, there was a general feeling that McGrath was over - here he is bowling as well as if not better than - ever.

The Aussie performance on the whole not entirely impressive - still Champion stuff but looking less unbeatble by the day. New Zealand should stand a chance of pulling off an upset - they are after all the #2 team in the World - should be a cracking series.

I think the Aussies need to unearth another young batsman like Michael Clarke - the top order is in patchy form and of course ageing, to say the least. I don't see Darren Lehmann being part of this line-up for much longer. Any names my Aussies friends would like to suggest ???

Saturday, February 05, 2005

An Indo-Lankan Union

"He's a chucker". "He's one of the World's greatest bowlers." "He's a cheat." "He's a victim". "He's a villain." "He's a hero." Love him, hate him - you can't ignore him. Besides being so many different things to so many different people (a few listed above), Muttaiah Muralitharan is a wonderful human being - his broad smile always flashing come sun or rain or Tsunami. And now he has decided to make an Indian girl - Madhimalar Ramamurthy - from Tamil Nadu his bride. I hope that even his worst critics (and there are quite a few out there) would join me in congratulating him and wishing the couple all the best.

Graeme Smith - The Class Finally Shines Through

Graeme Smith scored hsi first ever ODI hundred and passed 50 for the first time in almost a year to lead SA to a 3-wicket victory over England. That Smith had the ability to win matches was never in question - the question was would he be able to do it while leading the side. Finally he has - this is a significant victory for SA. Ever since, Stephen Fleming lashed him a year ago Smith's SA had managed to win just 1 ODI - against Bangladesh - and this could just be a turning point.

Of course, SA need to consider seriously if Smith at such a young age can perform the 2 functions effectively. He is too good a batsman - matchwinner - to lose to the pressures of captaincy. I do believe that Smith, Kallis, Gibbs really need to start pulling their weight in this SA side if it has to achive its old glory days.

Bring Back Jadeja !!!!

Remember him ??? The ever-reliable #5 who would come in the most difficult situation, take a look and provide a thunderous blast to get India out of trouble ? He - of the famous Allan Border catch of the 1992 World Cup, he - of the famous assault on Waqar Younis in the 1996 World Cup, he - of an unbeaten courageous 100 against Australia when the top 4 had scored nothing in the 1999 World Cup ???

He who was convicted of match-fixing, He who did not give up even in the face of greatest adversity, He who has had a superb year for Delhi and North Zone - he who still might be one of the top fielders in India - BRING HIM BACK !!!!

The ban on Ajay Jadeja (and there is no reason now to go into the debate over the ban was legitimate) has been legally overruled by the Courts and his performances deserve reward with a recall to the ODI side. The selectors have been extremely unfair in "not considering" him for the Challenger Trophy. The Indian ODI team is in desperate need of a batsman coming down the order who can play a dual role - moving the scoreboard along and providing a blast - and Jadeja fits the bill perfectly. India cannot afford the luxury of ignoring him. Ajay Jadeja - great fielder, match-winner, intelligent cricketer - we want you back.

The Same Old Story ...

For a fair while Pakistan kept up the fight ... but in the end ... need I say more ???

Friday, February 04, 2005

Good Job !!

The Indian selectors have done well in the selection of the sides for the Challenger Trophy. Not only have they distributed the players reasonably equitably, the choice of captains too makes sense - Dravid, the second-in-charge and the man most likely to take over in case something extraordinary happens leads India A while Sehwag who amongst the current crop looks the most likely long-term prospect leads India B. Series will be important for a lot of players - in particular 1 Laxmipathy Balaji making a comeback.

It has happened ...

What was mere speculation yesterday has turned into reality today - Matthew Hayden has been dropped despite support from captain and coach. A brief break that would do him good - or the end of his ODI career ??? Hard to say. Although Clarke has failed this morning.

Chokers Unlimited

South Africa have choked not for the first time to squander a winning position in the second ODI vs England at Bloomfontein. The memories just come flooding back - the 1999 WC semifinal at Birmingham against Australia with Allan Donald stranded, the Titan Cup Final 1996 when it seemed victory was inevitable, the tearful exit at the 2003 World Cup as well as the surrender to Brian Lara in 1996 - amazingly 2 of the above mentioned matches have also been ties !!

Coming to the game, I think almost all of the blame can be laid to the inane cricket played in the last over - Ashwell Prince !!! - what the hell is he doing in this team ?? Sending Gibbs down the order was a good idea altho Id prefer if Smith came down and Gibbs continued to open. It would be real unfair to blame Kallis again. All in all, South Africa just weren't good enough and failed to draw level. They have not beaten any side other than Bangladesh in the last 14 matches !!!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hayden Out ??

Matthew Hayden has a serious chance of being axed from Australia's one-day lineup. The wonder-boy Michael Clarke is likely to take his place for the VB Series final and perhaps beyond. Hayden has been absolutely magnificent for the last 4 years but a poor run has meant that by Australian standards and rules he has to vacate his place - a bit harsh perhaps but that's the Aussie way and it has always worked for the team.

It's A Tie !!

The England-South Africa ODI at Bloomfontein has ended in a dramatic tie !!! My detailed analysis later ...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Pakistan - Do You Have It In You ?

S. Jagadish rather cynically (but perhaps with good reason) writes here that Pakistan have earned the right to be walloped 2-0 by Australia, by defeating the West Indies last night. I would have to agree that Australia are overwhelming favourites but would hope that Pakistan believe they stand a chance. After all, this Pakistani Team is playing really well - much like the Pakistan of the middle-to-late nineties with a lot of flair coming from the likes of Inzy, Youhana and Afridi and some superb performances by a born-again Razzaq.

If Pakistan manage to beat Australia in the finals of the VB Series it would be a great tonic to the dying game of One Day Cricket. Yesterday's match against the West Indies was a really good win - made all the more enjoyable because it followed the old-fashioned pattern - slow and steady start, gradual shift of momentum and explosion at the end. The chase was also maintained for a reasonable period to sustain interest. I'd rather have these matches with slow starts and a push in the middle overs than the modern day style that involves a dreadful 15-40 over period.

Again, I am in a dilemma who to support here - so I just call on for good hard old-fashioned cricket - and may the better team on the day win.

Can Improve And Will Need To ...

Coach Bennett King's first stint with the West Indies cricket team cannot be classified as a success 1 victory, 4 defeats and a washout (albeit a cruel one). There were encouraging signs however of a good team coming into shape with some of the pieces of the jigsaw falling into place. The middle-order looks settled (as it has for some time now) but what is encouraging is that Wavell Hinds down the order can play a crucial role in the company of Bravo and Browne. Of great encouragement is also the fact, that the opening bowling looks settled - Collins and Bradshaw did very well - and given some time Reon King can take on the 3rd seamer's spot as well. The big concern is however the 4th and 5th bowler - Gayle's injury aggravated issues but you cannot afford to have a keeper batting at 8 in today's age - he has got to be 7 - I can see Bravo more as #5 bowler than a #4 - what the West Indies sorely need is 1 more good bowler - preferrably a spinner but for the moment a fit and rejuvenated Tino Best would do (or Lawson or Edwards - God where are all these people ???)

Ryan Patrick more or less agrees with my sentiments - and he is willing to give Bennett King more chances before judging him.